On Thursday, Sept. 29, Western Reserve Academy welcomed 50 alumnae members in Pierce House, flooding the historic home with laughter, light and sisterhood. It was the first event for a new initiative and special travel series, 50 Brilliant Years of Women, one that celebrates and salutes 50 years since our school’s return to coeducation in 1972. What an irresistible opportunity for community, celebration and connection amongst our female graduates, and a truly golden anniversary for Dear Old Reserve.

What could be a more fitting setting to celebrate than Pierce House? It’s the home of our very first female head of school, Suzanne Walker Buck, who joined WRA in 2019 to lead our community forward, fearlessly and thoughtfully. Through her stewardship, we have established a strategic plan and illuminated a path toward our future, celebrating our upcoming Bicentennial and embracing our motto of Lux et Veritas. At Pierce House, her joy and gratitude was palpable as she conversed with WRA women across the ages. As she addressed the room, she thanked everyone for their presence: “Each and every one of you, just by being here, has already made a difference.”

Every decade was represented at the gathering, including a member of the original first wave of freshmen who graduated in 1976. What a strange and memorable time for these young women, all of whom fit the true definition of a Pioneer! So many insights and stories were shared (including a colorful tale of a resourceful planting of geraniums in the, admittedly, unnecessary urinals in their designated, repurposed locker room!) Also in attendance were faculty and staff members who are fellow female graduates. They played a special role in the evening, each reciting a short snippet cataloging the history (her-story?) of women at Reserve.

For all involved, 50 Brilliant Years is as much of a celebration as it is a call for action and impact. As Suzanne addressed the room, she touched on the undeniable power of female philanthropy. Based on research compiled by the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, we know that women currently control ⅓ of the world’s wealth. Studies found that in 2021, women held $12 trillion in assets and are projected to have $30 trillion by 2030. At Reserve, though only 9% of alumnae contributed to The WRA Fund last year, this formidable group raised nearly a quarter of a million dollars alone. It’s hard not to imagine the impact a united alumnae effort could have at this school and for future young women.

50 Brilliant Years challenges the women of Reserve to come together to raise one million dollars for an endowed scholarship for a future female student. It’s the first scholarship designated specifically for young women, and one that will open doors for future female Pioneers. After meeting so many incredible women at Pierce House, it’s clear that every alumna has a unique story to share, but a throughline is the Reserve experience — and the knowledge that it can be life changing. In the spirit of Lux, we’ve shared the phrase “It’s our time to shine” and indeed, it’s a fitting and rallying call to arms! Let’s shine a bright light on the women of Reserve and celebrate this historic mile marker — and let's light the way forward for the next generation.